Spoilers ahead for the Blue Bloods Season 11 finale, “Justifies the Means.”
Season 11 of CBS’ police procedural Blue Bloods came to an end with a rousing finale, and while the show is indeed coming back for Season 12, as announced by the network in April, that renewal wasn't a sure thing when the season was still filming. And showrunner Kevin Wade revealed the reason why he and the show's creative team crafted the Season 11 conclusion in a way that would have also worked as an official series finale.
For most TV series, especially on broadcast networks, finding out whether they'll get renewed for another season doesn't happen until the current episodes are almost over. There are exceptions, of course, and early renewals make it easier for writers to properly plan out seasonal endgames that tie into how they want the next seasons to start. Blue Bloods showrunner Kevin Wade wasn't so lucky in that respect, telling Deadline that he started planning Season 11's finale as a series finale after he misconstrued some air-date information late in 2020. In his words:
One is we were told pretty early on, I think before Thanksgiving that our season finale would be the last two episodes and would air back-to-back, which I immediately took as they’re planning to wrap up the series… so I started to think about how do we do something that could serve as a season finale but also if need be as a series finale.
It's not extremely uncommon for a showrunner's creative team to plan a season finale as a series finale, especially if the future is uncertain. That makes it so fans and characters have closure, while also allowing the potential to set up the next season if given the chance. The Blue Bloods finale had a perfect callback to the first season, which is something that many TV shows like to incorporate for cyclical narrative purposes.
Thankfully, CBS did give Blue Bloods a Season 12 thumbs up, but because that confirmation didn't arrive until after the finale was already filmed, that made it so the Joe Reagan callback didn't quite have the same impact, even though it was still great for fans who've been watching for all 11 seasons. Here's how Kevin Wade put it:
We went back to the end of the first season where all the Reagans became involved in finding out and catching and bringing to justice the bad cops who killed Joe Reagan who is of course, Joe Hill’s father. And it was kind of a callback to that, just in case it was a series finale it would have a circle to it. ... So it was that, and then we went into this. We wrote it and we filmed most of it. In fact, I think we filmed all of it before we knew if we were coming back or not.
Now that Blue Bloods is officially coming back for Season 12, it’ll be interesting to see how the events of the finale are going to be followed up on in Season 12. It’s not yet known when the show will be coming back, but with CBS’ Upfronts happening soon, the network will likely announce whether or not the long-running drama will stick to Friday nights this fall.
All 11 seasons of Blue Bloods are streaming now on Paramount+.